I don’t usually jump on the media bandwagon and offer my thoughts on what to random ‘celebrities’ are waffling on about. Mainly because no-one’s remotely interested in what I have to say (fair point). But I just thought my point of view might be interesting on this occasion.
A lot of you may have come across an article in yesterday’s Telegraph by Kirstie Allsopp. To save you reading the whole article, the main premise of her opinion is that she feels young women shouldn’t go to university straight after school – they should stay home and make babies instead. And I quote:
‘Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.”
Now a lot of you may actually agree with her. Fair enough. Personally, I can’t quite work out if she’s trying to be deliberately provocative or not, but I’m not going to say much more about her other than we’re all entitled to opinions. But I DO think it’s dangerous for anyone to say what women should or shouldn’t do. What a lovely position to be in Ms Allsopp, to be able to help your child buy a flat. I know no-one that has ever or will ever be in that fortunate position. (As an aside, quite how she became an ‘expert’ on anything other than sewing and houses, I’m not sure.)
However, here are my two pennies worth just for the sake of it.
When I was at school, the idea of going to university or, for that matter, even taking A-levels was alien to me. It just wasn’t on my radar. Ever. Which is kinda odd. But it was never suggested to me as an option by my school (back in the day when we had Careers Advisors, for what they were worth … ie. not a lot) … or by my parents.
It just was what it was. You accepted and respected your parents’ advice/opinion and often followed in their footsteps which, in my case, was to become a Secretary.
As I grew older I think I became a little resentful of that because it had always left me feeling like I wasn’t smart enough or even worthy of doing what a lot of my peers did – and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
It felt like I had no choice.
I pretty much went on to do what Kirstie Allsopp suggested. I found a ‘nice boyfriend’ at 19, got married at 20 and had my eldest son Ben at 24. After I left school I did at least get to go to college and by the time I was 18 I had found myself a great job working for a national newspaper, albeit in a supporting type role.
I was happy because, I think, I had no aspirations to do better. No one in my family had ever gone to university before me, let alone my mother who I really looked up to, and it felt like no one even thought that someone like me could ever go to university. That’s pretty sad looking back.
So I just ended up getting stuck in a relationship at far too young an age because that’s what my parents had done. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t regret anything that happened because I have the most amazing son from that relationship, but I often wonder … what if?
What if I had gone to university after leaving school? What would I be doing for a living? Would I have children? Would I even be living in this country? I always had aspirations to live abroad, travel, see the world … instead I was married at 20 and never travelled further than Majorca.
The worst thing is that the feeling of ‘unworthiness’ has stayed with me throughout my life. The feeling of not being ‘good enough.’ Until, that is, I faced that demon head on, aged 36, when I applied to go to university. (You can read a little bit more about that here.)
I think what I’m trying to say is that life has a certain way of often coming full circle. I do wish I had gone to university aged 18 and experienced it the way I think it should be experienced – I think the self development aspect of uni would have really helped me mature into a confident woman. But I never let it hold me back. I eventually learnt that I’m just as smart and worthy as everyone else that went to university. I had a point to prove but only to myself.
Kirstie Allsopp is a very fortunate woman. She’s the daughter of a Lord … I’m the daughter of a builder. She has always had choice in her life. Kids these days have to make the decision whether they want to be saddled with a massive debt and a degree or leave school and compete with everyone else for a job. I admire anyone who has ambition but Uni isn’t for everyone.
Yes University is now really expensive – as the mother of a 19 year old who is currently at Bournemouth University I know only too well about the money side of things. However, whether my eldest had been a girl or a boy, I still believe that if they wanted to go to university at 18, and feel like it is going to give them a step up the career ladder, then they should do it and I will support it.
Life isn’t black and white. Life is about choosing what is best for you, regardless of what a random woman from TV says. Some of us have choice, some of us don’t. We’re all just trying to do what we can to survive half the time.
I have led a really interesting life as a wife, single mother, student, freelancer, office worker, mother … and one thing I do know is that we will have the right to decide what is best for ourselves.
We are already hard enough on ourselves without TV ‘personalities’ telling us we did it all wrong.